Friday, June 10, 2005

Sharlene Oshiro with the Makaha Sons (John Koko, left, Louis "Moon" Kauakahi and Jerome Koko) at the group's pre-concert party last year.

Makaha Sons have
cast of stars

Hawaiian group has an
interesting history

The first time around, when Jerome Koko helped get the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau started in the mid-1970s, he was happy playing backyard parties and baby luaus and thought the group as a part-time thing. Then he left the group after several years to pursue other interests and formed a duo with his younger brother John.

Together again

"Take a Walk in the Country 3" with the Makaha Sons, Keali'i Reichel, Willy K, Fiji, Na Palapalai, Raiatea Helm, Ho'okena, Aunty Genoa Keawe, Troy Fernandez, Na Kama, Hoku Zuttermeister, Pilioha and Natalie A'i Kamauu

Where: Waikiki Shell

When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $15 to $30 reserved seating and $10 lawn area

Call: 591-2211

It would be several years later when Louis "Moon" Kauakahi asked him to help rebuild the group in '82.

"When we came back ... after Skippy (Kamakawiwo'ole) died, I just put it on the table and said I hope this is not going to be a six-month thing and then forget about it. If we get together this time, it's going to be from now up to the end," Koko recalled last Thursday as he and John welcomed guests to a reception at Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch and Crab.

It was all for promoting the Sons' "Take a Walk in the Country 3" concert at the Waikiki Shell Saturday.

The pre-concert event, always held a week or so before the show, has become part of the preparations for their annual concert. Unfortunately, by the time things kicked off at 6 p.m., Kauakahi was still stuck in rush-hour gridlock, so it was up to the Koko brothers to do the meet-and-greets and talk about the show.

AS WITH so many other things in the 29-year history of the group now known as the Makaha Sons, the history of their concert series takes some explaining. The old Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau were involved in some concerts out in Waianae while Skippy was still alive, and the final version of the group -- made up then of Kauakahi, the Koko brothers, and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole -- did a series of successful "Makaha Bash" concerts right up until Iz abruptly quit the group shortly before "Makaha Bash 6" in 1993.

Kamakawiwo'ole and his attorney later retracted the charges they'd made against the group's management, but by that time, there was no way to put the successful lineup back together. As part of Iz's "divorce" from the band, it was agreed that Moon, John and Jerome would drop the " ... of Ni'ihau" from the group's name.

Several years and many Hoku awards later, the Makaha Sons decided to resume the summer concert series, but under a new name. The first "Take a Walk in the Country" was actually presented back in Waianae, but since then the Sons have been, as Kauakahi put it last year, "bringing the country to town."

By any standard, this year's concert offers an incredible lineup of Hawaiian artists. As luck would have it, the bill includes two of this year's top Hoku Award winners, Raiatea Helm and Na Palapalai.

Also joining the Sons are other multiple award winners Keali'i Reichel, Willie K, Ho'okena, Aunty Genoa Keawe and Troy Fernandez.

There's more. "We've (also) got the younger groups this year," John Koko said, (like) Natalie A'i Kamauu, Pilioha, Na Kama (and) Hoku Zuttermeister. ... They've been in business a long time but they're gonna be releasing new CDs, or they have a new CD, and we're trying to help them push their careers. Hopefully, they'll perpetuate Hawaiian music and keep everything going."

NOT THAT the Makaha Sons are slowing down themselves. All three had day jobs for years, but now that Kauakahi has retired from the National Guard, they're racking up frequent flier miles.

"Every month, we're in Japan, and then all over (the U.S.)," Koko says. "We've been traveling every week for three months straight. This week, we took a break to get ready for 'Take a Walk.' "

Jerome Koko added that he sees plenty of opportunities for the group to explore other music while maintaining their commitment to traditional Hawaiian. After all, they surprised some people several years ago by expanding their repertoire to include classic hapa-haole songs, but the material was quickly accepted.

"I think there's a lot of stuffs that we can venture in to," he said. "It's just kind of getting out of that shell. I think we're caught in a Catch-22 (situation) because traditional Hawaiian music is kind of on a decline, but now since there's the Grammy (category), it might be an influence for more groups to get into the traditional side.

"But I know there's other fields that we can explore, just to keep everything fresh, not only for Hawaii listeners but for our international and mainland visitors, too."

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